Are These the 10 Best Onsen in Japan? (Spoiler: no)

I originally planned to write about how railroad company executives in the United States are holding the economy hostage so they can avoid wages increases which match inflation and giving their workers paid sick leave… but plenty of other people write about that better than I. I find it astonishing that Congress and the POTUS are avoiding the obvious solution: force a contract which gives the railroad workers what they want. Well, it’s not astonishing. The Railway Labor Act, which allows Congress to block otherwise legal strikes, gives the executives too much power and workers too little. It’s ‘rational’ for executives to abuse this imbalance by denying shipping service to force the government to impose a contract which allows them to squeeze as much as they can out of workers for profit. Workers can’t retaliate with a strike. Except… many railroad workers have been quitting for a long time because the railroad companies penalize them for going to necessary medical appointments. If the railroad companies lose too many workers to stay functional, that’s also a kind of labor strike.

Anyway, instead of writing more about that, I feel like writing about something frivolous: Japanese onsen.

A few days ago, I ran across this listicle: “The 10 Best Onsen in Japan”

It turns out I’ve visited 6 of those 10.

#3 Beppu:

This is an outstanding onsen town. I loved it. So many baths to choose from, of good quality. Hyotan was awesome, I still remember the experience over 5 years later. I also enjoyed the kitschy tour circuits of ‘hell’ (I avoided the ones known for animal abuse). Yes, I would put it in my top 10 favorite Japanese onsen. In fact, I’d rank it #3.

#4 Hirauchi:

It’s a seaside rustic onsen with rockside pools and little development.

I understand why it’s on the list. It’s a unique experience, the opposite of a major city bathhouse. However, it’s not one of my favorites.

#5 Dogo Onsen:

This place has great cultural and historical value. I went on the tour. Worth visiting? Yes. Good bathhouse? Yes. A personal favorite? No.

#6 Funaoka Onsen:

This seems to have only made it to the list because it’s in a convenient location in Kyoto. As a cheap local onsen, it’s great. As a way to bathe with locals, it’s great. But if you plucked this onsen out of Kyoto and put it in a small town, it’d be nothing special. Not a favorite.

#7 Noboribetsu Onsen:

According to the notes I wrote just after I left Japan, this was my favorite onsen of them all. That’s not how I remember it years later, but I still remember that it’s one of the best. The minerals in the water are amazing. I bathed in the privacy of my traditional-and-simple inn.

I also went to Oyunuma and the best footbath in Japan, which are just outside Noboribetsu Onsen.

#10 Yunotsu Onsen:

I thought I hadn’t visited this onsen, but I remember Iwami Ginzan, so I checked my notes. Yup, I’d visited this onsen, I’d just forgotten (and according to my notes, I wasn’t impressed). Given that this onsen is forgettable, it’s not a favorite.

My Favorite Onsen didn’t make it to the list…

In my memories, my favorite onsen was Yunomine Onsen. The water quality was amazing. It’s in an atmospheric historic village. It’s one of the oldest (if not the oldest) developed onsen in Japan. It’s a World Heritage Site.

According to my notes, Yunomine Onsen was my second favorite, after Noboribetsu Onsen.

Is this as important as the struggle between railroad executive profiteering, railroad workers seeking dignity, and everyone else seeking reliable transport? No. But I hope reading this made your day better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.